by Bill Shankly’s Grandson Christopher William Shankly Carline
Say what you want about Glen Johnson. but he did well for the goal yesterday. He put his head in where it hurt and it is the reason we have 3 points today and everything feels just that little bit better. “And why would he not!” I hear you cry. “He is on about £100,000 per week!” Of course he is, and a point well made. I expect every player wearing a Liverpool shirt to have that level of commitment, but I sometimes think some fans need to step back and remember that players are still human. Johnson has come in for a lot of stick in the last 12 months, some justified, some not.
Criticism of players is something I have quite strong views on. Let’s get it right, when you are a professional footballer with all the trappings of the modern game, of course you are accountable and of course you should expect criticism. My issue however is how it is delivered. I’ve always been of the opinion that screaming abuse at our own players when they are playing live in front of us is completely counter-productive and quite moronic to be honest. How is it going to help the player and therefore in turn how is it going to help the team? Anyone who has played football at any sort of competitive level knows how it works. If as a player; your confidence is low, you don’t want the ball because you are scared to give it away or mess up. If the crowd is therefore on your back prolifically; what do fans expect when the individual therefore fails to perform. As you are about to receive the ball; all you are thinking is that everyone in this crowd is expecting me to mess up. And you will.
When I have been at the game over the years and people around me have been screaming at an individual (I had one idiot throughout the Real Madrid game abusing Balotelli non stop. Literally that is all he opened his mouth to do. No encouraging or singing for the team, just abusing Mario); I have turned round and said something to them. I find it ridiculous. Players know when they are playing poor. And if they don’t, do people think their coaches, manager and team mates don’t pull them on it? I’m not for one minute saying they should be immune from fans’ criticism, not at all, I regularly have a rant on social media (never direct to players however, don’t even get me started on that) or in forums or with my mates about players; but my point is that. There is a time and a place for it, where it can take place constructively; and not in the middle of a live game of football whilst they are representing my team.
It all brings me on however to my main point. I admire the mental strength shown at times by these players who have become the vehicle for fans frustrations, and often at times; a scapegoat. I could go back over my match going years ( I won’t though) and name the players who have been the target of frustrations of Liverpool fans and at times, carried the can for the frustrations of the fans. Danny Murphy springs to mind as one. The man who scored the winner how many times against Manchester Utd? Lucas Leiva is another and a prime example of my point.
Lucas was abused horrendously in his first season or so at the club, as he struggled to come to terms with a new culture, a new country, a new team and a new league. Yet the Brazillian managed to turn this full circle and went through a period where he was one of our best performers and an integral part of the team, with fans revelling in his performances. It is that which I really admire. It surely takes a great deal of mental strength to turn your performances round from being screamed at by fans, abused and actually ironically cheered when you are subbed; to having fans realise that you are an integral part of the team. To be able to block out the abuse and consensus on the pitch to just stay concentrated on your game; safe in the knowledge your ability will ultimately shine through; is something that I personally feel must be a great challenge and that those who achieve it and come out the other side must be applauded for it; as many have fallen on this path believe me.
Glen Johnson epitomised my point yesterday. Despite the non stop abuse he has had; many of which is a direct frustration at the teams overall plight at the moment, he turned in a man of the match performance yesterday (and that wasn’t just my opinion, it was backed by Aldo too on City) and put his body on the line to secure us the 3 points. He HAS been poor at times over the last 12-18 months but I also remember that for a period of 2 years he was fantastic for us; and as far as I am concerned, is still the best right back at the club. Id rather channel my attention towards encouraging him to try and get back to his former form; than vilifying him all the way towards the exit door. That’s what he did yesterday; channelled his mental strength into turning in a performance.
Let’s not forget. We are Liverpool. We pride ourselves in being the best fans in the world and being a unique set of people who aren’t like other football fans. Let’s remember that when we are screaming abuse at our own players when they are wearing a Liverbird upon their chest right in front of us trying to win us a football match.